New vaccine targets pneumonia, blood poisoning, meningitis among children in Canada’s North

New vaccine targets pneumonia, blood poisoning, meningitis among children in Canada’s North
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Frank St. Michael demonstrates how scientists at the National Research Council of Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada created a vaccine for Hia, a potentially deadly bacteria. It affects predominantly northern Indigenous communities. (Pierre-Paul Couture, CBC News) Karen Pauls is an award-winning journalist who has been a national news reporter in Manitoba since 2004. She has travelled across Canada and around the world to do stories for CBC, including the 2011 Royal Wedding in London. Karen has worked in Washington and was the correspondent in Berlin, Germany, for three months in 2013, covering the selection of Pope Francis in Rome. Twitter @karenpaulscbc

Federal researchers have collaborated to develop a preventative vaccine for a potentially deadly bacteria that causes pneumonia, blood poisoning and meningitis in children and affecting predominantly children in northern and Indigenous communities.

Scientists with the Public Health Agency of Canada first identified Haemophillus influenza A (Hia) infections in the mid-2000s in Winnipeg, Edmonton and Montreal hospitals. Hia is not the common flu — which is caused by a virus, not a bacteria.

Hia has become more common since then, evolving into an emerging public health concern among children under five and for adults whose immune systems aren’t working properly, said Dr. Guillaume Poliquin, the senior medical adviser for the Public Health Agency of Canada at the National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) in Winnipeg.

About 500 people are exposed to Hia every year, and about 10 per cent of those die.

"It can spread anywhere in the body and can cause things from pneumonia to skin, soft tissue and bone infections, but the complication we fear the most is when it gets to the lining of the brain and can cause … meningitis," Poliquin said during a recent tour of the Level 2 lab. Michelle Shuel, Dr. Guillaume Poliquin and Raymond Tsang discovered the Hia Type A bacteria in northern Manitoba and worked with the Medical Research Council of Canada to help develop a vaccine. (Warren Kay, CBC News) Poliquin bridges basic science and hands-on medicine. He is an infectious disease pediatrician who works in northern communities and has seen the devastation this bacteria can cause for patients and their families.

Children infected with meningitis can’t be treated in their home community, so they have to be medically evacuated to hospitals, where they spend weeks on intravenous antibiotics.

"That means displaced child, displaced family in a foreign community away from all your support networks, and the story doesn’t end there. Meningitis often has long-term impacts on the child’s development so that means back and forth travel for years. The impact is immediate and long-term," Poliquin said.

"As to why specifically we’re seeing it most in Indigenous populations at this point, it’s an area of ongoing research. Certainly the living conditions in the North, crowding, poor access to nutritious foods, probably contribute to it, but we don’t know for sure."

Dr. Raymond Tsang’s Winnipeg-based research team identified the Hia Type A bacteria as the one responsible for the cases they were seeing.

They isolated the piece of the bacteria most vulnerable to a vaccine and sent that to the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) in Ottawa.

Scientists there developed a vaccine using specialized chemistry and technology. It involves engineering a molecule called a carrier protein that they attached to the bacteria, making it easier for the vaccine to recognize and generates a stronger immune response.

It was found effective in tests on mice and rabbits. The vaccine developed at NRC kills all Hia Type A bacteria strains from different parts of Canada, leading Andrew Cox, senior research officer, to believe it will be ‘a very good vaccine.’ (Pierre-Paul Couture, […]

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New vaccine targets pneumonia, blood poisoning, meningitis among children in Canada’s North

New vaccine targets pneumonia, blood poisoning, meningitis among children in Canada’s North
Share this!

Frank St. Michael demonstrates how scientists at the National Research Council of Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada created a vaccine for Hia, a potentially deadly bacteria. It affects predominantly northern Indigenous communities. (Pierre-Paul Couture, CBC News) Karen Pauls is an award-winning journalist who has been a national news reporter in Manitoba since 2004. She has travelled across Canada and around the world to do stories for CBC, including the 2011 Royal Wedding in London. Karen has worked in Washington and was the correspondent in Berlin, Germany, for three months in 2013, covering the selection of Pope Francis in Rome. Twitter @karenpaulscbc

Federal researchers have collaborated to develop a preventative vaccine for a potentially deadly bacteria that causes pneumonia, blood poisoning and meningitis in children and affecting predominantly children in northern and Indigenous communities.

Scientists with the Public Health Agency of Canada first identified Haemophillus influenza A (Hia) infections in the mid-2000s in Winnipeg, Edmonton and Montreal hospitals. Hia is not the common flu — which is caused by a virus, not a bacteria.

Hia has become more common since then, evolving into an emerging public health concern among children under five and for adults whose immune systems aren’t working properly, said Dr. Guillaume Poliquin, the senior medical adviser for the Public Health Agency of Canada at the National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) in Winnipeg.

About 500 people are exposed to Hia every year, and about 10 per cent of those die.

"It can spread anywhere in the body and can cause things from pneumonia to skin, soft tissue and bone infections, but the complication we fear the most is when it gets to the lining of the brain and can cause … meningitis," Poliquin said during a recent tour of the Level 2 lab. Michelle Shuel, Dr. Guillaume Poliquin and Raymond Tsang discovered the Hia Type A bacteria in northern Manitoba and worked with the Medical Research Council of Canada to help develop a vaccine. (Warren Kay, CBC News) Poliquin bridges basic science and hands-on medicine. He is an infectious disease pediatrician who works in northern communities and has seen the devastation this bacteria can cause for patients and their families.

Children infected with meningitis can’t be treated in their home community, so they have to be medically evacuated to hospitals, where they spend weeks on intravenous antibiotics.

"That means displaced child, displaced family in a foreign community away from all your support networks, and the story doesn’t end there. Meningitis often has long-term impacts on the child’s development so that means back and forth travel for years. The impact is immediate and long-term," Poliquin said.

"As to why specifically we’re seeing it most in Indigenous populations at this point, it’s an area of ongoing research. Certainly the living conditions in the North, crowding, poor access to nutritious foods, probably contribute to it, but we don’t know for sure."

Dr. Raymond Tsang’s Winnipeg-based research team identified the Hia Type A bacteria as the one responsible for the cases they were seeing.

They isolated the piece of the bacteria most vulnerable to a vaccine and sent that to the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) in Ottawa.

Scientists there developed a vaccine using specialized chemistry and technology. It involves engineering a molecule called a carrier protein that they attached to the bacteria, making it easier for the vaccine to recognize and generates a stronger immune response.

It was found effective in tests on mice and rabbits. The vaccine developed at NRC kills all Hia Type A bacteria strains from different parts of Canada, leading Andrew Cox, senior research officer, to believe it will be ‘a very good vaccine.’ (Pierre-Paul Couture, […]

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